The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team (3-0) began their season last Friday night against Dartmouth, finishing with a comfortable 84-61 victory, as star guard E.C. Matthews returned from injury to lead the way with 21 points.
Matthews eclipsed his 1,000 career points on the Ryan Center court on a 3-pointer with 17 minutes remaining in the first half, becoming the 52nd URI player to do so. This comes after Matthews was sidelined all of the 2015-2016 season by injury. He was relieved to say the least, taking the floor for the first time in nearly a calendar year.
“It was amazing just being out there with the teammates and the vibe and the atmosphere,” Matthews said. “I almost forgot because it had been so long. You could smell it in the air.”
The score was close for the first 10 minutes of the first half, as Rhode Island led only 18-16. However, The Rams would breakout to a 7-0 run late in the half bringing the lead to double-digits, where it would stay for the remainder of the game. Transfer guard Stanford Robinson, who had to sit out last season after arriving from Indiana University, jumpstarted the run late in the first half, as he converted an important jumper with four minutes to go. Rhode Island led Dartmouth 39-26 going into halftime.
In the first five minutes of the second half, Rhode Island made their first four field goals, continuing their hot shooting by outscoring Dartmouth 10-0 to begin second-half play. With just over 10 minutes remaining in the opening game, Matthews drained a 3-pointer, boosting his team’s lead to 67-37. URI would finish in convincing fashion on their way to the 23 point opening victory.
Senior forward Hassan Martin earned his 15th career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, to go along with a whopping seven blocks. Senior forward Kuran Iverson had 11 points and junior guard Jared Terrell added 12 points. Rhode Island’s bench helped tremendously, scoring 23 points with all-around solid play from Robinson, who had seven points and four steals, along with sophomore forward Nikola Akele, who scored nine points on perfect 3-of-3 shooting.
Head coach Dan Hurley was pleased with his now No. 21 nationally ranked (AP Poll) team’s performance, especially on their home floor.
“It’s been several months – a year for some – since we’ve been on the court,” Hurley said. “The crowd and all the anticipation of our first game – we’ve all been working so hard. We’re just excited about the season.”